Archive | December, 2012

Vietnamese Summer Rolls (rice paper rolls)

18 Dec

There’s nothing better during the holidays than a light, delicious and tasty dish as a bit of a break from all the rich food, whether you happen to be in the warm southern hemisphere or in the very cold northern hemisphere. Alice came through with a great dish last week with her lettuce wraps. And she inspired me to attempt one of my favorite foods – Summer Rolls, sometimes known as  Spring Rolls – that heretofore had been reserved for dining out at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant because they seemed too complicated to make at home. As it turns out, they are not that difficult to make and with a little practice, these rolls are just as good as they are at the restaurant.

1-Vietnamese Spring Rolls 071

I was introduced to these delicious rolls quite a few years ago by my friends Dee and Bernt and their daughter Lydia, who LOVED these rolls from babyhood. So guess who I’ll be having over to dinner soon??

You may need to get a few special ingredients such as rice paper, cellophane noodles and fish sauce to make this dish, but you can just use as much as you need for your meal and most of the ingredients will save for another making. I was able to find all of these ingredients at my local supermarket.

If you haven’t tried fish sauce, you are in for a treat. It’s pretty smelly and strong tasting on its own, but mixed with the lime juice and sugar, it becomes a tasty dipping sauce. Fish sauce can also be added to tomato sauces or meat dishes or event guacamole in small quantities to add a richness of flavor.

Vietnamese summer rolls

First, mix up the dipping sauce.

dipping sauce

Mix together the lime juice, fish sauce (which I found at my neighborhood grocery store), sugar and either Thai chili peppers or chili garlic sauce to taste. I like mine spicy, so I used a teaspoon full of the chili sauce. Let it chill in the fridge while you make the rolls. Right before serving, chop up some cilantro (coriander to those of you outside the US) and toss it in the sauce.

dipping sauce_final

Then prepare all of your fillings – chop the cucumber into matchstick-sized pieces (my matches are JUMBO)


Then cut your carrots the same size


Cover the cellophane noodles with hot water and let them soften for about 10 minutes while you finish your prep. Once they are softened, you’ll need to drop them into a bowl with ice water to stop them from cooking further.

cellophane noodles_add water

Halve your shrimp. I had peeled frozen, pre-cooked shrimp, so I thawed as many as I needed, removed the tails and cut them in half lengthwise.


Once you have all your ingredients ready, fill a pie pan with warm water, pull out your rice paper and get ready to roll (literally).

rice paper

Drop a single rice paper round into the warm water, turn it around a few times with your hand. It should be softened in 15-20 seconds. I found that when it was starting to feel a bit pliable and I was able to pull it toward the middle with my fingers that it was ready.

softened rice paper

Pull the round out of the water and place it carefully on your working surface. I used my larger cutting board as my rolling surface.

Place three halves of shrimp in a row in the middle of the circle, top with the herbs, veggies, cellophane noodles and lettuce.




Then fold the bottom of the circle up and over the filling and tuck and pull the filling tight, carefully, so you don’t tear it. Tuck the sides over the ends of the cylinder and roll the rest of the way up. The tighter you get it, the easier it is to hold on to while you’re eating it.




Don’t overfill your roll with the ingredients. THIS is what happens when you overfill.

overfilled rolls

When you’ve made enough, it’s time to eat them! Word to the wise, don’t attempt to cut the roll in half as most of the filling falls right out. It still tastes really good, but is quite messy to try to eat and the filling keeps dropping out of the roll into the sauce.

messy plating

This makes a lovely appetizer before dinner, although at my house, this was a very satisfying dinner.


Vietnamese Summer Rolls
Found on

dipping sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 fresh red Thai chiles thinly sliced or 1/2 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill.

summer rolls
4 ounces cellophane noodles (also known as bean thread noodles)
12 8″-9″ rice paper rounds
18 cooked medium shrimp (about 10 ounces), peeled, deveined, halved lengthwise
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves plus 1 tablespoon chopped
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup English hothouse cucumber, cut into matchstick-size pieces
1 cup carrot, cut into matchstick-size pieces
12 small butter lettuce leaves

Put noodles in a large bowl. Pour enough hot water over to cover; let stand until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl of ice water to cool; drain and set aside.

Fill a pie plate with warm water. Working with 1 rice paper round at a time, soak rice paper in water, turning occasionally, until just pliable but not limp, about 15-20 seconds. Transfer to your work surface. Arrange 3 shrimp halves across center of round. Top with some leaves of each herb, cucumber and carrot. Arrange a small handful of noodles over. Place 1 lettuce leaf over, torn or folded to fit. Fold bottom of rice paper over filling, then fold in ends and roll like a burrito into a tight cylinder. Transfer roll, seam side down, to a platter. Repeat to make 11 more rolls. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

San Choi Bau

11 Dec

Just looking at B’s jook made me very hungry. We call it congee here, and it is one of those wonderful foods that the late night chinese restaurants like Supper Inn do a roaring trade in. I am looking forward to making it now.

Have I mentioned how much I love that this blog makes me try out new recipes? Well… san choi bau is one of those delicious things I order whenever I see it on a menu in a Chinese restaurant, but have never made it before.


I am not going to suggest this is a 100% authentic Chinese recipe. I looked at quite a few variations, and they were all so different. The concept is a lettuce cup filled with a spoonful or two of deliciously flavoured minced meat and herbs. Add in some fried noodles for a bit of crunch if you like. You could even throw in uncooked bean shoots to get a similar effect. It seems you can use whatever meat you have on hand, pork, chicken, beef, lamb, prawns and even duck. Many recipes used oyster sauce, and I have no doubt that what I have had in restaurants, but I have yet to find an oyster sauce without that dastardly MSG, so I didn’t go that direction this time.

What I used…


Chicken mince, iceberg lettuce, bean shoots, spring onion (scallion), onion, ginger, garlic, garlic chives, water chestnuts, sesame oil, chili sauce, chinese cooking wine, pre-fried noodles, vegetable oil and some soy sauce.

I began by chopping up the onion finely, and sautéing in a pan over low heat. When translucent, I added minced ginger and garlic, and cooked for only a minute before adding the chicken mince. I turned the heat up to medium and fried until browned a little, but not fully cooked.

onionGarlicGinger chicken

I then added in the liquids; sesame oil, soy sauce, cooking wine and a dash of chili, and cooked until the liquid reduced somewhat before tossing in the chopped spring onions, water chestnuts, bean shoots and some chopped garlic chives.


At the last minute I stirred through the fried noodles then spooned the mix in to some pieces of iceberg lettuce. Some more garlic chives on top… and hey presto.


I made six largish lettuce cups, and you could probably get ten smaller ones from these quantities.

They work well as a small appetiser before a meal.


B tells me they are called lettuce wraps in the old US of A.


San Choi Bau


1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
Half an onion or three red shallots, finely diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
250g (1/2 pound) minced chicken
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
1.5 teaspoons of sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili sauce or chopped red chili (or to taste)
10 peeled water chestnuts chopped finely
1/2 cup bean shoots
2 spring onions chopped
3 tablespoons chopped garlic chives, half for garnish
1/2 cup fried noodles
10-ish iceberg lettuce leaves, pick the nicest shaped ones and trim them with scissors if needed

Sauté the onion over medium-low heat until translucent, and then add in the garlic and ginger and continue to cook for another minute. Add in the chicken mince and cook over medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon in to small pieces as it does, until it is close to cooked through. Add in the soy sauce, cooking wine, sesame oil, and the chili. Continue to cook and let the liquid evaporate by half. Add in the water chestnuts, bean shoots, spring onions and half of the garlic chives. Cook for 4 more minutes, and then stir through the fried noodles.

Spoon the mixture in to the prepared lettuce cups, garnish with the remaining garlic chives and serve immediately.


Ginger Chicken Jook

2 Dec

Wow, Alice. That ginger rum drink was quite refreshing and will definitely be one of my go-to summer drinks.

Ginger is such a great flavor to add to both sweet and savory dishes. In this case, it’s a comforting chicken soup/porridge with an Asian bent.

Ginger Chicken Jook

A friend shared this recipe with me when I was feeling a bit under the weather last year. It’s tasty, easy and one of the best things to eat when your tummy is not quite right, sort of like the old standard chicken noodle soup.

It’s also good for cool, damp winter nights, when you’re chilled all the way through and you just need something to warm you up, something you can pour into a bowl or a large cup and wrap your hands around to warm you down to your toes. That’s what this does.

Ginger Chicken Jook 010

The ingredients are simple – chicken legs or thighs, chicken broth, water, rice, ginger, salt and pepper – and the flavor is deceptively simple. I blame the ginger.

Chop the ginger into thick slices


No need to peel the ginger, just slice it up.

Then pour everything into a large stock pot and bring to a boil over medium-high.

Ginger Chicken Jook

Reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about an hour.

Ginger Chicken Jook

After an hour, the chicken will be tender, the rice will be softened and the soup will be thickened and porridge-like. Pull the chicken from the pot, cool and remove the meat from the bone.


Return the chicken to the pot, pull out the chunks of ginger and dish up a bowl of the jook. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and scallions, if you have them.

Ginger Chicken Jook


Alice, what sort of adventure in cooking do you have for me?

Ginger Chicken Jook (Rice Porridge)


6 cups water
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken legs or thighs
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, skin on and sliced into 4 pieces
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
Pinch freshly ground white pepper, plus more as needed
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish


Place all ingredients except the cilantro and scallions in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook at a lively simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice has completely broken down and the mixture is creamy, about 1 hour.

Turn off the heat and remove the chicken to a cutting board. When it’s cool enough to handle, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding the cartilage and bones. Return the chicken shreds to the jook. Stir to combine, taste, and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro and scallions.

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